From blockbuster trades to harrowing human dramas, there was a lot to remember in 2013-14. And that’s not even counting the fact the schedule got a bit squished thanks to a
little ol’ tournament called the Olympics. Here’s a look at the top 20 moments that defined the greatest hockey league in the world this year.
1. Tomas Hertl’s four goals vs. New York, Oct. 8, 2013
In just his third NHL game, the rookie Tomas Hertl put up his statement performance with four goals in 11 minutes of playing time against the Rangers. Hertl’s final goal was a breakaway between-the-legs instant classic that drew gushing reviews from most of the hockey world and the occasional dissenter, such as then-Washington coach Adam Oates, who said the move was disrespectful. Nonetheless, Hertl became a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy from that game until mid-December, when he required knee surgery after being hit by L.A.’s Dustin Brown. Marty Biron, the goaltender who gave up Hertl’s famous goal, would play just one more NHL game before retiring.
2. T.J. Oshie’s shootout heroics vs. Russia, Feb. 15, 2014
It was the most anticipated matchup of the Olympic round-robin, a Cold War classic starring the United States and the host Russians. Controversial Russian President Vladimir Putin was even in the building as the two rivals went at each other for 65 minutes without resolving matters. So with the score tied 2-2, the game went to a shootout where, under IIHF rules, only the first three shooters had to be different. So with the score still tied, Team USA sent out Blues winger T.J. Oshie five additional times in a row, while Russia countered with Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk. Oshie finished with four goals to win the match for America and earn the nickname ‘T.J. Sochi’.
3. Kristers Gudlevskis almost helps Latvia upset Canada, Feb. 19, 2014
Led by Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan, Latvia upset the Swiss en route to a quarterfinal showdown with heavily favored Canada at the Olympics. And though Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons was the only NHLer on the roster, the Latvians did have Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Kristers Gudlevskis in net – and he made a game of it. Despite being peppered with 57 shots, Gudlevskis thwarted Canada’s all-star roster time and again, ceding just one goal in the first 52 minutes. Nashville’s Shea Weber finally broke a 1-1 tie with seven minutes to play, but the sight of Gudlevskis using every last bit of strength to keep his team in the game, even when he was past the brink of exhaustion, was truly inspiring.
4. Rich Peverley collapses, March 10, 2014
During an otherwise innocuous meeting between Dallas and Columbus, horror gripped the crowd in the first period when veteran Stars center Rich Peverley collapsed suddenly on the bench. Peverley, who had previously been treated for an irregular heartbeat, was rushed into the tunnel for treatment by trainers Dave Zeis and Craig Lowry in just 14 seconds. Peverley also credited doctors Robert Dimeff, Gil Salazar and Bill Robertson for saving his life. The pivot did not return to game action this year.
5. Ben Scrivens’ 59-save shutout vs. San Jose, Jan. 29, 2014
There have been few nice stories to come out of Edmonton lately, and practically none of them have involved goaltending. So when Ben Scrivens came to town from Los Angeles in exchange for a third-round pick, there was reason for hope. The Alberta native put his stamp on the season a couple weeks later when he stopped all 59 shots against the offensively powerful Sharks, setting a record for the most saves in a shutout. And make no mistake, the Oilers needed him: Edmonton threw just 27 shots at San Jose in the 3-0 win.
6. Vancouver, Calgary brawl off the faceoff, Jan. 18, 2014
What a bizarre first game for Kellan Lain. The towering Canucks winger got in just one shift in his debut thanks to the antics of Vancouver coach John Tortorella and his hated rival, Flames bench boss Bob Hartley. With Hartley dressing his tough guys for the opening faceoff, Tortorella responded in kind. And there was no question what was about to happen when Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa decided to take the draw against Calgary enforcer (and right winger) Kevin Westgarth. Lain was one of eight players booted at the two-second mark of the game as the faceoff sparked a line brawl, while Tortorella made headlines by attempting to rush the Calgary dressing room between periods. Tortorella was suspended 15 days for his actions and Hartley was fined $25,000. Both teams would miss the playoffs and Tortorella would eventually be fired.
7. Kris Letang comes back from stroke, April 9, 2014
As shocking as it was to learn that Penguins blueliner Kris Letang had suffered a stroke, it was just as reassuring to see the offensively gifted player back on the ice months later. Letang, who has a hole in his heart, was discovered unconscious by his wife Jan. 29. He missed 26 games before returning to play more than 22 minutes, and grab an assist, against Detroit.
8. Ray Emery beats up Braden Holtby, Nov. 2, 2013
Philadelphia goaltender Ray Emery is no stranger to fisticuffs – he’s even had boxers on his mask. But during a line brawl against Washington, he made more than a few observers squeamish when he went after Capitals counterpart Braden Holtby. The Washington netminder was clearly outgunned in the fight, yet the refs wouldn’t jump in. The Capitals were already ahead 7-0 and easily won the game, but Emery got his revenge. The question remained, however: Does ‘The Code’ include goalies?
9. Roberto Luongo returns to Florida, March 4, 2014
His contract was so big, so long, that the chances of trading him were remote. Add to the fact it was well known Roberto Luongo wanted to go back to Florida, the team he had his first prolonged NHL success with, and the task for Vancouver was immense. But the Canucks and then-GM Mike Gillis had bungled their netminding position so badly, something had to be done, so Luongo and a minor-leaguer were sent to the Panthers for goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias, while Vancouver ate part of Luongo’s contract.
10. L.A. wins four straight to beat San Jose in seven, April 30, 2014
Everyone knew the Pacific Division was going to be a street fight under the new playoff alignment and the Sharks were the first to get shanked. After winning the first three games against rival Los Angeles in the first round, San Jose was unable to produce the dagger and the Kings rebounded to take the next four games. It was just the fourth time in NHL history a team had come back from such a deficit, and the Kings rode that momentum all the way to a Stanley Cup.
11. Canada beats Sweden for gold, Feb. 23, 2014
The game itself was almost anticlimactic. After struggling to overcome a stubborn Latvian team in the quarterfinal, the Canadians put up a wall against the Americans in the semi and then continued playing near-perfect hockey against Sweden in the final. The 3-0 masterpiece, punctuated by a Sidney Crosby breakaway goal, gave Carey Price two straight shutouts. But the game carried a shadow. Sweden’s top center, Nicklas Backstrom of Washington, had mysteriously been suspended hours before the game by the IOC for an allergy medication he openly used for seven years. The fact the test had been taken four days prior to the suspension also rang of conspiracy or incompetence on the part of Olympic officials.
12. Martin St-Louis becomes New York’s emotional leader, May 9, 2014
His career on Broadway began on a low note, as the former Lightning captain had sulked his way out, getting traded at the deadline for Ryan Callahan. A slow start in New York didn’t help, but Martin St-Louis faced horrible adversity and lived up to his sterling reputation. Just before Mother’s Day, his mom passed away. He played the next night against Pittsburgh, scored for her one game later and helped the Blueshirts win the series.
13. Teemu Selanne’s last regular season game, April 13, 2014
Sure, we’ve thought he was gone before, but this time it really seems like Teemu Selanne is retired for good. ‘The Finnish Flash’ ended his regular season campaign in typical classy style, waving to fans as he skated around, then grabbing Colorado goalie J-S Giguere to celebrate. Selanne and Giguere won a Cup together in 2007 with Anaheim.
14. Steven Stamkos breaks his leg, Nov. 11, 2013
During an afternoon tilt with the Bruins, Tampa Bay superstar Steven Stamkos drove to the net and was upended by D-man Dougie Hamilton. Stamkos collided with the iron and broke his leg on the play, costing him a shot at the Olympics (he did return four months later). Fellow young gun John Tavares also went down this year. The Islanders captain tore knee ligaments against Latvia at the Olympics and never returned to New York’s lineup.
15. New Jersey loses all 13 shootouts, April 11, 2014
In the end, the Devils missed the post-season by six points, and while goaltending was a factor, the shootout was a huge reason. New Jersey lost all 13 shootouts it took part in, bleeding away points it desperately could have used. Part of the problem? Normally slick-handed Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac combined for just one goal in 20 attempts. The Devils only scored four shootout goals all season long.
16. Columbus gets first playoff win, April 19, 2014
They went in as a cast of lunchpailers taking on some of the most elite talents in the world. But the Blue Jackets knocked Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins for a loop in Game 2 of their first-round series when Matt Calvert scored in double overtime. The 4-3 triumph was the first playoff win for the Ohio franchise and the Jackets would add another in Game 4, when Nick Foligno beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a wrister early in overtime to tie the series at two games apiece. But the inspirational story ended there, as Pittsburgh would close out the Jackets in six games.
17. Anaheim beats L.A. at outdoor game in Dodgers Stadium, Jan. 26, 2014
An outdoor game in California. Who knew it was possible? Despite being played in the Golden State, the evening tilt between Anaheim and Los Angeles, held at Dodgers Stadium, went off without a hitch. The ice was fine, the crowd was into it and a new spin on the novelty ended with a 3-0 Ducks victory. Other big outdoor games included two matches at Yankee Stadium involving the Rangers, plus Toronto and Detroit at the University of Michigan’s football stadium, where more than 100,000 fans braved the snow.
18. Jaromir Jagr scores goal No. 700, March 1, 2014
It wasn’t pretty, but it still counted. In the second period of a 6-1 win over the Islanders, Jagr scored his 700th goal when the Czech legend’s shot went off a defenseman and past goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Jagr, ageless at 42, would go on to lead the Devils in scoring with 67 points while playing in all 82 games. The talented right winger couldn’t get the Devils back to the playoffs, but, hey, he’s not a miracle worker.
19. Shawn Thornton sucker punches Brooks Orpik, Dec. 7, 2013
One of the most bitter rivalries in the game today put another chapter in the books when Bruins goon Shawn Thornton pulled down Pens blueliner Brooks Orpik from behind and proceeded to sucker punch the Pittsburgh veteran. Orpik would leave the game on a stretcher and miss the next eight games with a concussion. Thornton was suspended 15 games. The precursor to the attack saw Pittsburgh’s James Neal “accidentally” knee a prone Brad Marchand in the head. Orpik had also concussed Loui Eriksson earlier in the game on a hit, though it warranted no discipline.
20. Detroit makes the playoffs for 23rd straight season, April 9, 2014
Detroit has been a scion of excellence for more than two decades, though recent times have presented more challenges. First there was the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the greatest defensemen of all-time. This year, it was major injuries to stars such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, not to mention goalie Jimmy Howard. But a youth attack led by Gustav Nyquist, who went off for 23 goals in a 28-game stretch, propelled Detroit back into the post-season and, while the Wings couldn’t tame the Boston Bruins, they did establish that this team is not going anywhere.